Yel

 

What places on your body do you hope to see differently? 

The whole thing. Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and wonder if I’m really a person. 

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How do you feel about them currently? 

 

It’s an ongoing process. Some days I feel like an alien living in a meat sack, then other days, I’m impressed by how strong it is. For most of my life I underestimated my body. The majority of my time in high school and undergrad it was drilled into me that my looks were an anomaly, or even unnecessary. I didn’t fit in with the rest of the women in undergrad so I allowed myself to be labeled “a Director.” To me, this is the most insidious form of trauma where those who are supposed to be your champions choose to plant seeds of doubt in your mind about your capabilities and your worth in this world. Simply because of how you look. It’s crazy. These days, I’m thankful to say, my self worth is rooted in how fast I can sprint, how the muscles and cellulite of my inner thighs are so breathtaking in their contrast, how my melanin gleams like dark amber during golden hour. Its taken years of active decolonizing my beliefs and views to reach what I consider the base level of freedom. I am becoming aware of its power to shift the energy wherever it goes. I am aware that it takes up space. That it exists. Best of all my body is welcomed. Embraced. Celebrated. These loving feelings are nothing short of revolutionary for me. 

 

How do you react, what happens, when you see these parts of your body negatively? 

First there’s a slight sense of shame, as in why couldn’t my genetics just get the legs right, make them longer or more slender. Why couldn’t the nipples be smaller, more cute? Did I do something to deserve this karma? Then I remember I’ve been conditioned to view European standards of beauty as the norm since birth basically. I remember my legs ,my mother’s legs, my grandmothers legs and my great grandmothers legs - all muscular, shapely, petite yet mighty in stature. My mother has been using hers to kick down glass ceilings, my grandmother used hers to walk down to the immigration office in Saint Ann to demand US visas, my great grandma used hers to balance a general store to support her 11 children. I remember what these women have accomplished in their lifetime and how I’m a continuation of that legacy. My legs were crafted in service of this legacy. 

 

Who would you be if you really loved your body?

I’m her now. I’m her and I’m peeling back the layers of BS that have been caked on for the last 29 years. Sometimes I catch my own glance in a window or a mirror and I legitimately gasp. What’s that quote? “You’re allowed to be a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time?” 

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What hopes do you have that would arise when other people see these images? When you see these images? 

For other people: I want people to see my body and see themselves, their foremothers, see that because I exist without apology or explanation, that they can too. Our traditional notions of what is beautiful or desirable have been prescribed to us by a capitalism. The idea that there are only a handful of beauty types or norms, and that if you don’t fit into one of those weird ass molds , you are invisible or don’t exist or, at the very least, have to change to fit. The gag is none of that prescribed bullshit is real. I want people to wake up. 

When I see these images I want to see what society, my professors, my rejectors, refused to acknowledge. The beauty too strange or foreign or Black to understand. Once I get past that? I expect to see God in myself. Cause if my body wasn’t meant to be here why the hell would it be? Which Is what I try to tell myself when I look in the mirror, “I’m meant to be here. Why hide?” 

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